Every November, my mother-in-law gets an envelope from a charity organization complete with a bunch of address label stickers or generic Christmas cards, plus the perfunctory request for a donation.
She typically complains that she’s fed up receiving the same request year after year… but then she reaches for her checkbook.
When I tell her she can simply ignore the request, she shakes her head: “But they already gave it to me!” A day later, her check will be on its way to the charity.
Chalk it up to the successful use of marketing psychology!
To explain what compels her to donate to a charity she isn’t really passionate about – and to demonstrate how it can effectively help you drive user engagement within your app – we’ll refer to the six principles in Robert B. Cialdini’s seminal work Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Since its initial publish date in 1984, the book has become the standard starting point for those business owners and marketers who want to better understand consumer psychology.
In his landmark book, Cialdini put forth six principles about how we all make decisions based on generalizations. And he shows how those generalizations can be exploited so that people can be influenced to take specific actions.
In a nutshell, the six principles are:
The idea: “I’ll do it because you gave me something already.”
Clearly, my mother-in-law fell for this strategy. She got free stickers or Christmas cards (although she didn’t ask for them), so she felt she had to donate back to the charity that spent money sending her these things.
See how Cialdini himself explains the principle in this 2-minute video:
We are naturally wired to want to return favors. If you do something nice for someone, or give them something as a gift, they will feel indebted to you for it. And that indebtedness can be used to your advantage as a mobile marketer.
The simplest way to get people interacting with your app is to give them something that relates to your brand or your vertical.
The idea: “I’ll do it because everyone seems to be doing it too.”
Social proof is one of those principles that is common enough in marketing that we need not go into detail here. Suffice to say: seeing proof that others are doing an action is enough for us to want to do it as well.
For example: if we see people on Facebook raving about the latest selfie camera app, we may be more inclined to check it out. Or if we read glowing book reviews on Amazon, we might order the ebook. There’s a built-in mechanism in our brains that makes us social animals craving to belong to a tribe. Doing what others are doing answers that craving.
Another curious fact that underscores the social proof in user reviews: the higher the ratings your app gets, the more people will download and install your app. Check out this graph from a 2016 Google I/O event:
If your app’s score is above 3.0, it will garner 9x more downloads than if it falls below that score. And if your app’s score is 4 or 5, then you get 4x more downloads than if it were at 3.0 to 3.9.
Watch an animated explanation of the principle in this 2-minute video:
If you want to use social proof to keep users engaged, then it’s as simple as taking every opportunity to show them what other customers are saying.
The idea: “That’s so me, I’ll do it!”
We routinely commit to making decisions that fit our self-image. Furthermore, once we make a small commitment, we tend to follow through and make bigger commitments in order to be consistent with that self-image.
Here’s an example of how our self-image leads us to make decisions consistent with that image:
Which begs the question: do you know how your users view themselves? If not, you must spend the time and effort to find out. This self-image is crucial to understanding how your audience thinks and will be beneficial in leading them to their first conversion.
If you want to use marketing psychology to get users to act, you need to know them inside out. What are their pains and what are their concerns? How does your app solve their pain?
One small commitment from a user can be the stepping stone to bigger commitments down the road. Here’s more consumer psychology to speed up that process:
The idea: “I’ll do it because an expert said so.”
It’s human nature to want to follow, especially if a leader or authority figure has a message or an agenda we respect. Cialdini cites examples from history of authority figures who’ve made people do horrible acts, exploiting this follower tendency.
Authority figures, therefore have the power to influence people toward action, whether good or bad. And since your brand is the only authority within your app, you should be telling them what to do.
You have to onboard your users properly. Teach them how to begin using the app, and how to best make use of it.
The idea: “I’ll do it because I like you.”
It’s human to be influenced by those people we’re attracted to, or in a marketing sense, those brands we feel loyalty towards.
A real example: my wife’s family are all diehard Honda fans who have bought or leased nothing but Hondas in the past 20 years. So when they receive the annual brochure announcing new models, they always look through it to determine whether they need (or want) to upgrade.
There are many ways to become a more likable brand. It can be as simple as changing the tone of your communication, or it can be as complicated as giving your brand an entire design makeover. Some tips:
The idea: “I’ll do it because it’s my last chance.”
How many times have you clicked on an online deal because of the phrase “while supplies last” or “limited time only?”
I’m betting we’ve all fallen prey to this perceived scarcity creating a sense of urgency within us. The limited availability of something we want generates an increased demand. Even the slightest perception that something is scarce will move us to act immediately or face the consequence of missing out on a great deal.
In the same way, we can use scarcity to propel our users to accomplish an action that leads to conversion or at the very least, engagement. Some examples:
Now that you know Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence, you have an arsenal of tactics you can use to persuade users to engage. Just remember that it is your duty as an ethical mobile marketer to use these principles responsibly.
Don’t exploit them in the short run for profit and dispense them when you’re done. Play the long game and persuade your users toward action while building true loyalty for – and engagement with – your brand.